For me the scariest thing is not that the world is ruled by gangsters – a criminal elite with the US ruling class its top mafia family. It is that this particular family, and the lesser criminals who ride its coat-tails, are justifiably worried.
And by that fact more dangerous than ever.
It is overly reductive to see the wars and sanctions on Iraq, Libya and Venezuela as solely about threats to dollar hegemony. In each case at least two other items – on an à la carte that takes in: oil .. privatisation .. Israel’s expansion .. China’s One Belt One Road .. Russia’s recovery from the Yeltsin years .. Washington’s blood-soaked record in Latin America .. the logical progression of claims of US Exceptionalism to demands for full spectrum dominance – also feature.
Nevertheless, a key aspect of the treatment of Saddam, Gaddafi and Maduro is that neither Washington nor Wall Street will take lying down any challenge to their petrodollar advantage. Yet such challenges will recur. China and Russia will not be tied by US Exceptionalism, nor by what Valery Giscard d’Estaing called the “exorbitant privilege” of a Bretton Woods agreement made unconscionable first by Nixon’s 1971 decoupling of dollar from gold to pay for Vietnam, then by a petrodollar system in which oil transactions everywhere are in US dollars.1
Unlike Iraq, Libya or Venezuela, however, China and Russia can call up a wide set of retaliatory options in the face of economic or military intimidation.
And unlike North Korea’s nuclear capacity, China’s and especially Russia’s range of tactical and strategic missiles – and world-beating S-400 defence system – rule out any attempt to take them out with a single, audacious strike.2 All the same, that section of the American ruling class which believes a nuclear war with Eurasia can be won is growing. These are men and women whose past deeds make clear to those not fully asleep that the slaying of millions, and further despoliation of the planet, are for them acceptable prices for America’s continuing supremacy.
What’s more, from a certain standpoint – a morally insane one, but with a chilling rationality – they are right. I can think of no precedent for a pre-eminent world power sitting back as the economic basis of its military might ebbs away. And Russia and China have time on their side. Kicking this particular can down the road will only favour those who would defy the Pentagon.
Get your revenge in first, as that all-American hero Jack Reacher – fittingly a British creation – is wont to say. It’s an axiom not lost on US hawks. Especially now, with the tangerine clown in the Oval Office both handy fall guy and demonstrably malleable.3
These are dangerous days. The more so when most people, Western intelligentsia4 in particular, remain oblivious to the underlying realities driving our world. In this they are assisted by media corrupted not just by oligarchic ownership. And not just by dependence on advertising or – as with BBC, ABC etc – the good will of politicians fearful of, or in bed with, media barons. Where such incentives to toe the line are insufficient we see direct interference, as with the Guardian after the Snowden revelations.
For a brief and useful summary of media failure, see Open Democracy’s five reasons we don’t have free independent media. This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: if we have no free and independent media, then we have no meaningful democracy either. In any account of how class rule and imperialism can be squared with ‘democracy’, the media are pivotal.
And they are not, in part through lies of commission but more those of omission, speaking truth to power. This despite the subjective sincerity of many, perhaps most, of those who bring us our pictures of reality. Journalists who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please their proprietors/advertisers/political masters.
Hence obscene and dysfunctional levels of inequality, monetisation of every aspect of our lives and accelerating destruction of that which sustains life on earth. Hence those vile attacks, by reactionary and liberal media alike, on those – the Corbyns and Assanges – who one way or another threaten a stacked deck. All these things, the champions of parliamentary democracy and ‘free speech’ would have us believe, being the will – fully informed and freely exercised at ballot box and newsagent – of those with so little to gain and so much to lose.
Hence too our sleepwalking into World War III.
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- Most nations import oil, so must hold large stockpiles of dollars to buy it. The ensuing demand props up the dollar regardless of economic conditions in the USA. For further reading on this and other aspects of dollar hegemony try Michael Hudson and/or The Global Minotaur by Yanis Varoufakis.
- Russia, its GDP roughly equal to California’s, is still the world’s number two military power. This is a legacy from the Soviet era but Russia’s economic recovery post Yeltsin allowed Putin to invest in her armed forces. Not by competing, as the USSR had, in a spiralling arms race but by spending wisely in her part-privatised but state-controlled arms sector; a sector unencumbered by a military-industrial complex whose thirst for profits trumps the ostensible imperative of fighting a non third world enemy. I stress non third world. No Western power has fought such an adversary since WW2 – a truth some Remainers attribute to EU ‘internationalism’. Ignorance of imperialism informs a dismissal of constant war on the global south, and sanctions hardly less lethal, as out of sight and out of mind. From this perspective one may speak with a straight face of “seventy-five years of Peace”. But even if we do leave aside the millions slain on three subjugated continents, there are more telling reasons than the EU for the decades of truce between the advanced capitalisms. Nuclear weapons for one. Super profits from the south – distributed more evenly within the imperialist camp than was the case in the colonial era (hence two world wars) – for another. But we are entering a new era in which the interlocked matters of America’s supremacy, and a MAD doctrine which holds that the very horrors of nuclear war come with their own safeguards, are up for re-examination.
- Trump’s malleability is most clearly evident in the ease with which he was forced – by deep state, military-industrial complex and Russia hawks in both parties – to row back on his oft stated willingness to work with Putin in the so-called War on Terror.
- Liberal media are, as Chomsky noted, vital to any advanced system of class rule. Their expensively educated consumers, opinion setters themselves, mistake the calm tones of Guardian, BBC, NYT, WashPo, HuffPo etc for sanity of content. And they confuse the willingness of those platforms to hold power to account in important but non-critical arenas with trustworthiness on matters not up for negotiation: a list headed up by the freedom of a ruling class to defend profits through wars fought in the name – here’s where media and other agents of narrative control come in – of lofty ideals.
Your observations, as always, are spot on. But what to do about it. If the western sleepwalkers will not wake up to the most blatantly obvious lies told to justify so many atrocities including but not limited to proxy wars using terrorists, outright political coups, Africa, South America, Ukraine and murderous sanctions against the poor, what chance do we have to right the wrongs let alone reverse the emerging trend of glaring hypocrisy and lawlessness by TPTB. In Britain alone, we have bimbos and ladettes preening and primping glued to a phone and empty headed who seem incapable of, or too self indulgent, to challenge the media bilge feeding them their daily thoughts? Gone are the days when people would tune in to Wedgy, or for that matter, even understand his words, they simply switch off and go into zombie mode.
I thought I was depressed when the only centrist in the political arena lost his battle for survival against the media and the Zionist Lobby propping them up, but so many people actually believed BoJo empty promises? Really? The latest GE was a three ring circus choreographed by the media and was as far removed from democracy as we could possibly get. If we have no democracy and cannot win the battle that way, what’s left?
What’s Left. Left Foot Forward, WSWS(SEP in the UK) are all mulling the possibility of more activist participation leading to Lord knows what(Johnson may yet by those water cannons to kill protesters)in the vein of Gilet Jaunes, unfortunately we are not French and it just won’t happen. If it did though, I might well find myself joining them in prison where most protesters end up.
If we cannot stop the disinformation and reverse the corrosive assaults on our cognitive awareness, I can’t see a way forward.
By the time you’ve read this monologue you’ll likely be as depressed as I am.
Happy New Year!
Happy new year to you too Susan! In answer to the question of your second sentence – or, as Lenin put it, What is To Be Done? – I come empty-handed. I’ve no faith in either the parliamentary or revolutionary roads to socialism. The one because parliamentary socialism is a contradiction in terms when that institution is fundamentally bourgeois, an instrument which enables or, in extremis, is overturned and countermanded by class rule.
(Though I do not dismiss its limited but real possibilities out of hand – see my post on the day of the UK election last month.)
The other because, unlike in 1917, I see no possibility of the rising masses defeating the armed might of an advanced capitalist power with its vast intelligence networks and systems of monitoring beyond the wildest dreams of Gestapo, KGB or Stasi. Look how we’ve accepted being captured on CCTV countless times a day – a reality legitimated, in the soft propaganda of screen entertainment, by its role in putting away the baddies. Look how close we are to a cashless economy – try paying a hotel bill in used notes nowadays! Look at repressive laws in place in the name of the ‘War on Terror’. Look how social media platforms, led by FB and Instagram as well as the “moderators” of below the line comment in Guardian etc, are moving against dissent. As I write this Instagram is barring comments in support of the murdered Suleimani. How long before, as is now the case in most American states, the BDS movement is also deplatformed?
And yet socialism it has to be – that or barbarism. As Gramsci put it, when that which must happen cannot happen, we are in the age of monsters.
Oddly enough though, I am not depressed – or never for long. Too angry perhaps. But also too mindful of life’s ineffable beauty, of love, laughter and the warmth my fellow humans – and two dogs – exude just when it’s most needed. And of course, I’m awed into silence by the breathtaking beauty of nature, on which I actively meditate every day as I walk or paddle my canoe.
And besides all of that, there’s something to be said – in fact an imperative almost physical – for simply speaking out the truth as we see it, regardless of consequences we cannot fully predict, far less control.
The rich are very poor without the workers and yet contribute nill to the needs of social safety at large
Yes! What does any ruling class want? All the protections of the state with none of the obligations. This truth is too simple for many of my sophisticated pals to see, alas.
Seems reasonable to observe that the key “problem” for any ruling class/establishment (which perpetuates itself over generations) is and has been it’s dependence upon everyone under its teutelage for their insatiable needs and wants.
Someone has to make things. Even if it’s only a mash. Someone has to manage the systems of production, structures and processes from manufacture to services which deliver the luxuries and tribute which go with the pampered lifestyle of the 0.1% – which is where the 99.9% come in.
Which means having to share resources with others rather than getting to hog all the cake.
Now if only a way could be found to intelligently and artificially automate all that without the need for the great unwashed (which includes the 0.9%) who would then all become surplus to requirements.
The question then becomes how to remove that surplus which expects access to resources (however meagre in comparison) which reduces the take of the ruling elite.
Perhaps they could find some way of getting everyone else to fight amongst themselves. Divide and rule.
But that’s just me being cynical.
The French have the right idea. The majority on this side of the Channel have simply been trained like unthinking chimps to tug their forelock and doff their caps. Evolution will not be kind to those, and their handlers, who fall into this category.
Best stock up the the larder. We could well be in for a bumpy ride.